Saturday was a good day for junior center Jordan Bachynski.
It’s unconfirmed whether Bachynski saw the lights of the Goodyear Blimp or even made a late night stop at Fatburger. The 7-foot-2 center did make history during the ASU men’s basketball team’s 87-76 win over Cal State Northridge.
Bachynski finished Saturday’s game with a triple-double — the first in program history. He had 13 points, 12 rebounds and a school-record 12 blocks.
“It was a long road, from my mission taking two years off,” Bachynski said about his accomplishment. “Coaches were patient with me from freshman year and (I was) not playing much at all. The development I’ve gone under is a testament to the great coaching staff here. They do a phenomenal job developing players. I feel fortunate, being able to do that.”
Coach Herb Sendek gave Bachynski an envelope after Tuesday’s practice that said in big bold letters, “10 REBOUNDS A GAME.” Bachynski picked up the triple-double following a game where he didn’t play much in the second half. Freshman forward Eric Jacobsen played the final 14:50 in ASU’s win over Hartford Wednesday.
“I’m not going to lie, not being able to play in the second half, I took it personal,” Bachynski said. “I’m happy for Eric Jacobsen and the great job that he did. If I wasn’t happy for him, I wouldn’t be a good teammate. But that was definitely motivation. I think any good team would feed off that. Not playing is just motivation to get better.”
Bachynski had eight points, four rebounds and five blocks at halftime as ASU (8-1) took a 41-31 lead at halftime. He did a better job taking advantage of Matadors (7-3) offensively. He was aggressive in the paint and went 4-for-5 from the field in the first half.
The Matadors had trouble getting shots in the paint with Bachynski towering over them. While a common triple-double involves points, rebounds and assists, Bachynski made it difficult for the Matadors with his defense. He had 12 blocks, yet committed zero personal fouls.
“It’s not something that I think is easily taught,” Sendek said. “The great shot blockers that I’ve had a chance to be around simply have that knack. It’s not something that you typically show film on or try to teach someone to do.”
Bachynski said he didn’t know he was on pace for the triple-double until assistant coach Larry Greer told him right before the second half. Greer told Bachynski to play his heart out, and he reached the accomplishment midway through the second half.
“I just continued to play hard and not let it effect me,” Bachynski said after Greer talked to him. “If you start thinking about it, you’re going to get nervous and you’re going to think, ‘I don’t have enough block shots, what am I going to do?’ You can’t have that in your mind. It’ll be in the back of your mind, but you have to continue to play hard.”
Despite Bachynski’s efforts, it was still a close game in the second half due to a poor half from ASU defensively. The Matadors shot 53.1 percent in the second half and had the lead down to single digits. Redshirt sophomore guard Stephan Hicks made two free throws to cut the deficit down to 70-61 with 8:11 left. Hicks had a team-high 18 points and 10 rebounds.
The Sun Devils always had a response when the Sun Devils cut into the lead. They went on a 9-1 run with seven of those points made off free throws. They shot 64.3 percent from the line, but attempted 42 free throws.
ASU redshirt freshman Jahii Carson scored a game-high 21 points and had six assists. Despite a 5-for-14 night from the field, he went 11-of-14 from the free-throw line.
“That guy is lighting fast and he just blows by guys,” Bachynski said. “Not only that, speed is great, but if you can’t finish at the hoop, it’s nothing. He does an amazing job sneaking in the lane and finding the open shot.”
Carson led a starting five that all scored double figures. Junior guard Evan Gordon had 20 points on 6-of-9 shooting, including four made three-pointers. Sophomore forward Jonathan Gilling had 12 points and senior wing Carrick Felix had 17 points and six rebounds. Felix had a key stretch in the first half translating three turnovers into highlight dunks, including a windmill jam, which had the crowd chanting his name.
“I feel like it’s been a long time coming,” Felix said of the team’s 8-1 start. “I feel like we definitely worked hard for it, but at the same time, we have to keep working for it. I’m excited but I know as the season goes on, it’s always going to get longer and teams are going to get better and better.”
The Sun Devils will face DePaul Wednesday, their only Big East opponent in non-conference play. It’s a rematch of last season’s meeting when DePaul defeated ASU 68-64 in the Old Spice Classic. Tip-off is at 7 p.m. on the Pac-12 Network and 860 AM.
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